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Satirical Classicism of an 18th Century Gold Ring: The Triumph of Priapus

A classy 18th Century ring with an image that, once you understand what you're looking at, makes you giggle. The image is known as "The triumph of Priapus" and we even found some 18th century drawings with this scene belonging to The British Museum (see pictures). As far as we have been able to determine, only a few of these rings with this scenery are known to exist. We were lucky enough to find a very interesting thesis from Raimon Graells i Fabregat (2011) in where he dives fully into the history of this ring (more about this further in this text).

To several experts in the field of antique intaglio's, only three or four of these rings are known to excist!

Priapus - In Greek mythology, Priapus was a minor rustic fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia. Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the medical term priapism. He became a popular figure in Roman erotic art and Latin literature, and is the subject of the often humorously obscene collection of verse called the Priapeia. (from: Wikipedia)

Antique jewelry object group: seal ring

Condition: good condition
  -  (more info on our condition scale)

Country of origin: Although it does not carry any legible control marks we believe this to be of French origin.

Style: Classicism, the following of ancient Greek or Roman principles and style in art and literature, generally associated with harmony, restraint, and adherence to recognized standards of form and craftsmanship, especially from the Renaissance to the 18th century. or more info on styles

Style specifics: Classicism - Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture are marked by their renewal of classical forms, motifs and subjects. In the 15th century Leon Battista Alberti was important in theorizing many of the ideas for painting that came to a fully realised product with Raphael's School of Athens during the High Renaissance. The themes continued largely unbroken into the 17th century, when artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Charles Le Brun represented of the more rigid classicism. Like Italian classicizing ideas in the 15th and 16th centuries, it spread through Europe in the mid to late 17th century. Later classicism in painting and sculpture from the mid-18th and 19th centuries is generally referred to as Neoclassicism. (from: Wikipedia)

Period: ca. 1750
  -  (events & facts of this era, poetry of this era, fashion of this era)

Source of inspiration: Mythology

Theme: The triumph of Priapus carried on a chariot

Material: High alloy yellow gold (higher than 18K - touchstone tested)
  -  (more info on precious metals)

Technique: Intaglio - An intaglio or engraved gem is a small gemstone, usually semi-precious, that has been carved, in the Western tradition normally with images or inscriptions only on one face. The engraving of gemstones was a major luxury art form in the ancient world, and an important one in some later periods. Strictly speaking, engraving means carving in intaglio, with the design cut into the flat background of the stone, but relief carvings, with the design projecting out of the background as in nearly all cameos, are also covered by the term. The activity is also called gem carving, and the artists gem-cutters. References to antique gems, and intaglios in a jewellery context, will almost always mean carved gems. (from: Wikipedia)

Extra information:
The following is from "Symbolae Antiqvariae" by Raimon Graells i Fabregat, published 2011 by Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa & Rome.

The first known publishing about this stone (or its sibling) is from 1784 by a publicist d'Hancarville who described this "procession of Priapus" as an ancient stone. But there is plenty of doubt about the originality of this stone. There is also a carnelian in the collection of a goldsmith Bassols in Catalonia with the same theme and made at the end of the XIX century.

It is suspected that this festive procession of bacchants and satyrs plus a cow and roosters as a symbol of the masculine power accompanied by Priapus phallus on a party wagon towards a decorated gate, the vagina, is a XVIIIth century product, a by now antique, antique counterfeit. D’Hancarville gave this procession the title: "Le triomphe de Priape ??porté sur un char" (French for: "The triumph of Priapus carried on a chariot").

The Getty Research Institute devoted attention to it in an exhibition catalog in 2008. See: The Antic and the Antiques in XVIIIth Century England (Redford, 2008). No relevant images can be found in it, but it contains a set of references to d’Hancarville.

The "Monuments de la vie privée des XII Césars" (French for: "Monuments of the private life of the Ceasar XII" was first published in Capri by Sabellus in 1780 (but in reality in Nancy), a second edition entitled "Monuments du culte secret des XII Césars" (French for "Monuments of the secret cult of Caesar XII") was published in 1784, also in Nancy. Then a 3rd edition was published in the Vatican in 1786. The Vatican then provided several editions. Always with fewer images than in the original, but with a more artistic finish. The choice of a false place of publication was made in order to quickly raise the profile of the author and his work as anticlerical, thereby speeding up sales.

In La France Littéraire ou dictionnaire biographique des savants" (French for:"The French Literary or biographical dictionary of the scientists") it is said of Hancarville: "He wanted to make pass these ghosts of a libidinous imagination for ancient monuments". But it remains his fantasy."

Precious stones: One agate

Hallmarks: No trace.
  -  (more info on hallmarks)

Dimensions: top of ring 3,17 cm (1,25 inch) x 2,53 cm (1,00 inch)

Weight: 22,70 gram (14,60 dwt)

Ring size Continental: 56 & 17¾ , Size US 7½ , Size UK: O½

Resizing: Resizing is possible but because of the age of the ring we prefer to leave it untouched. We cannot guarantee to make it on every size; for this work we might have to charge, so please ask in advance. Return policy on this ring is not valid anymore once this work has been done.
  -  (more info on ring sizes)

Reference Nº: 19087-0061

Copyright photography: Adin, fine antique jewelry

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Satirical Classicism of an 18th Century Gold Ring: The Triumph of Priapus
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